1968 UFO or UF-NO?

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This UFO photo looks rather intriguing, don’t you think? It’s in black and white, which is what you might expect of a photograph if it were taken in 1968, and the image was captured on a sunny day in Southern California, not far from a large military base famous for its UFO rumors (Edwards Air Force Base). The object appears wingless and saucer shaped, and far beyond the foreground trees. It also would seem to have its own source of backlighting. And for Jacques Vallee fans, the thing looks rather ethereal. (Jacques Vallee theorizes that some UFOs may be spectral objects appearing from other dimensions.)

So what’s not to like?

Well, this. I snapped the photo in my backyard today. I was goofing around, seeing if it was at all hard to make a somewhat convincing UFO photo. Obviously, it’s not. The object is a metal vegetable steamer I tossed into the air and snapped a picture of. Mystery solved. It’s not a UFO, it’s a UF-NO.

Here’s another image I made from tossing the kitchen vegetable steamer. I think it looks kind of creepy (as in Fourth of July picnic, dusk, circa 1977):

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Something interesting about this second photo is how misleading it is in terms of the apparent distance of the “UFO” from the camera. It appears as if the UFO could be airplane size and far beyond the trees, but it is in fact closer to the camera than the trees are. Further, it is not all that much larger in diameter than a CD (I taped the wings of the vegetable steamer shut before I threw it, and the captured image is only about 20-30 feet from the camera). The lesson here, if there is one, is to remember that, when looking at UFO photos, the two dimensional surface of a photograph renders the size and distance of three dimensional objects difficult to judge. You might not just be wrong in estimating the size and distance of objects in a photo, but spectacularly wrong.

And here’s Michael Shermer sharing his UFO photo making project:

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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